Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Why Evangelist?

One of my earliest memories is of watching Richard Nixon on television—all flop sweat and clichéd delivery—sitting at his desk in the Oval Office surrounded by boxes of reel-to-reel tape, declaring that he wasn’t a crook. I believed him. I couldn’t understand how someone (The PRESIDENT!) could sit there on live TV and lie.

My parents had no such qualms. “He’s a god damn liar.” “Tricky Dick.” It was like they were telling me not to believe in George Washington.

As I came to understand more about Nixon—especially his successes, his class-conscious paranoia, as well as his genuine devotion to public service—I realized that more than anything, his real flaws involved his egotism and his belief in a relative relationship between the truth and the law expressed in his famous line that “if the President does it, it’s not against the law.”

Let’s just call it moral hypocrisy.  

And for me, the most heinous moral hypocrisy has always involved religion. Twisting faith and scripture for fun and profit. The deliberate manipulation of many people’s most vulnerable emotions, by one who actually understands and shares those emotions. Someone who actually believes.

I wanted to take a look at someone like that. Nixon with a Bible. An Evangelist.